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Clin Biochem. 2004 Mar;37(3):165-74.

Iron assessment tests: transferrin receptor vis-à-vis zinc protoporphyrin.

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Department of Laboratory Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98104, USA.



To review and compare the biochemical, analytical, and clinical features of two relatively new tests for assessing iron status and diagnosing iron disorders, namely, the serum transferrin receptor concentration (sTfR) and the erythrocyte zinc protoporphyrin/heme ratio (ZnPP/H). To consider the merits of each test for the diagnosis of iron disorders with emphasis on iron-deficient erythropoiesis, especially in the clinically important preanemia stage of iron depletion.


Although the basic biochemical mechanisms underlying the two tests are very different, both of these tests are noteworthy because they are considered to reflect iron status in the bone marrow. The principal advantage to serum transferrin receptor is the lack of a response to anemia of chronic disease (ACD), which affects other iron status indicators, for example, ferritin and transferrin saturation. The principal advantage to erythrocyte zinc protoporphyrin is low cost, but point-of-care testing and simplicity can also be advantages. Both serum transferrin receptor and erythrocyte zinc protoporphyrin have been demonstrated to be useful in a variety of clinical situations. Serum transferrin receptor can be best used in diagnosing iron disorders, especially for patients with pathologies that may affect iron metabolism. Erythrocyte zinc protoporphyrin can be best used as a primary screening test for assessing iron status, especially in patients likely to have uncomplicated iron deficiency. While these applications are primary, both tests are more broadly useful, for example, in monitoring iron therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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